Functional fitness for the elderly
Functional fitness for the elderly is an important way to keep elderly people as independent and mobile as possible. Functional fitness is a classification of training that prepares the body for everyday movements and activities. It can also be known as functional training or functional movement. It helps your muscles to work together and prepares them for everyday tasks by simulating common everyday movements.
Care staff can support you during any functional fitness. A Live-in Care or visiting care service would ensure there is always support when you want to do any functional fitness. Care staff being available to support an elderly person ensures the safest environment and to get maximum benefit.
What is the biggest risk to the elderly?
Falls are a leading injury for the elderly. However, fear of falling does not need to rule your life or be a reason not to do things you want. As you get older, everyone goes through physical changes, and most acquire health conditions; Sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions can make falls more likely. Fitness for the elderly is the simplest way to help prevent falls and unnecessary injury. Age UK has some additional advice for preventing falls for the elderly alongside staying fit and active.
What if I think I’m too old for fitness?
You are never too old for any level or type of fitness. Everyday movements are a form of exercise and functional fitness for the elderly. It can be as simple as a few extra movements performed each day.
Some of the greatest gains the body gets is from slow controlled movements, such as standing up from a seated position and sitting back down. Initially movements may not be fully controlled, but that will improve with time.
Having some resistance, such as body weight (standing or walking) or something as simple as a cup, bag of sugar or a canned item will provide the resistance you need to really start to see the benefits. It does not have to involve buying equipment.
Everyday Movements for Fitness
There are a few components of functional fitness for the elderly. These will all help you to move easier throughout the day and reducing the risk of suffering a fall or accident in the home.
Aspects of everyday improvement to focus on include:
- Balance and coordination
- Range of motion
- Stability with mobility
Fitness for the elderly does not have to be a full-on exercise program. It can start with very simple movements around the home. These movements can be as simple as your current everyday movements being repeated.
Movements or actions that can see improvement can range from:
- Standing up or standing slightly straighter along with sitting down with more control
- Climbing the stairs – Even 1 extra step is an improvement
- Walking – The distance you can walk will improve over time, even one extra step for some people is a huge achievement
- Lifting items – Being able to lift that bag of sugar to the cupboard or carrying the shopping
- Pushing and pulling – Heavy doors or gates are often things some people struggle with
- Twisting or turning – Often the cause of small, but painful injuries. This often includes pulling muscles
- Jogging – For some reading this, it may not be possible, but over time, who knows what you can aim for!
Just by choosing to do some extra everyday movements can make a huge difference to your life over time. You may not notice the difference straight away but looking back after a couple of months of doing these activities regularly, you will notice improvements.
1. Balance and coordination
To help balance and coordination you need to train your legs and core to be able to stand, sit and walk. When you stand and prepare to walk or start another movement. Sit down again in a controlled manner and then stand again.
This simple repeat of movements works the body and provides easy fitness for the elderly to help build better balance and coordination.
2. Range of motion
Range of motion is the extent of movement of a joint. For some, this could be holding your arm out straight, or standing fully upright. A limited range of motion is where the joint has a reduction in its ability to move. Motion may be limited because of a problem within the joint, swelling of tissue around the joint, stiffness of the muscles, or pain. In this situation, people are advised to seek professional advice from a GP or Physiotherapist. Professional advice can give you some basic exercises and advice to help with the range of motion, even if just to prolong the movement you currently have in some cases.
3. Stability with mobility
As you gain confidence with your fitness routine, stability will improve gradually over time. The three main grouped areas of the body supporting stability are your:
- Core (Stomach and lower back)
- Upper Body (Arms, Shoulders, Chest and Back)
- Lower Body (Legs and feet)
Each one of these supports and works in harmony with the other. As you work on each one of these areas’ muscles will become stronger and capable of doing that little bit more over time.
Everyday items around the home, or kitchen can be used to add resistance to your fitness routine and improve strength. Tins in the cupboard, bags of ingredients will have some weight to them and therefore can provide resistance in some form. Just be aware of the material of the container you are using. Think about what you use, to avoid dangers from breakages, for example try to avoid using any glass items. Perform movements in a safe manner to ensure you do not overdo things.
As you repeat movements, your muscles will get stronger. Strength is not only about going to the gym and lifting heavy weights. Strength is about being able to lift, move and do more things in your everyday life.
Being able to do more, is also great for your mental health and over time, you will retrain your body to gain maximum movement and mobility.
Taking it further
If you have any questions or concerns, please seek medical or a professionally trained persons advice. If you have any illnesses or injuries gaining professional advice is key to your long-term wellbeing. Keeping mobile and active looks after the body, along with mental health. Staying active can also help with conditions such as Dementia
At Trinity Homecare our Live-In Care staff will be on hand to support you during any functional fitness.